Another celebrity leader? Yes!

August 19, 2010

Guelph Mercury, 18/08/10 wyclef

Of course. Haiti, barely crawling seven months after an earthquake left it a shattered nation, knows exactly what it needs right now – a rapper for president.

Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop producer and former Fugees millionaire, says he wants to lead his native island after the November election. Jean says he’s being “drafted by the youth of Haiti,” and has been parachuting himself all over the dirt-poor Caribbean nation in a suit and tie, flanked by supporters like some kind of long-lost saviour finally returning home.

“With what our people have suffered, political instability, coups after coups d’état, I feel that me running, it brings a neutral situation,” Jean told CNN’s Larry King.

“Meaning that Wyclef Jean can sit with any political party, have a conversation. I’m coming in neutral.”

Yes, he refers to himself in the third person, in the way that only celebrities can. The Wyclef Jean says he’d focus on education, job creation, health care and security if elected, but he could just as well have said he’d focus on bikinis, unicorns and ham sandwiches.

His strength, of course, if his own celebrity. Whether Jean’s career as a recording star has prepared him to run a destitute country of nine million where hundreds of thousands are still living in tents doesn’t matter.

Political experience? Let’s not talk about that. He can do anything. He’s a millionaire! He’s a celebrity!

The sad part is, that’s all some people believe a leader needs. Indeed, Jean is already considered a front-runner. If he’s approved as a candidate and elected, Haitians wouldn’t be the first people who pick a celebrity with zero political experience to be their leader, of course.

South of the border, that’s as American as apple pie and baseball.

Arnold Schwarzenegger spent his career doing steroids and beating up bad guys in film before Californians elected him as their governor. And he’s still in office.

Ronald Reagan, the man who proclaimed “a tree’s a tree. How many more do you need to look at?” earned his chops staring in B movies and flogging General Electric products to TV audiences. Then he became governor of California, before ascending to the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth.

Sonny Bono, the bad actor and even worse singer, was mayor of Palm Springs, California, before being elected as a Republican Congressman. Even Clint Eastwood served as mayor of Carmel, Calif., for two years.

In America, the celebrity is the height of all that is good: Rich, self-confident and, umm, rich. No wonder so many of them assume they’d make great leaders, too.

Thankfully, Canadians prefer their politicians awkward and nerdy. We don’t want any Slick Ricks here.

Instead, we’re more likely to reverse the celebrity-politician trend. We turn politicians’ families into celebrities. Ben Mulroney might not know how to find the House of Commons on a street map, but he sure knows how to use Dippity Doo and make us swoon on the red carpet.

And Justin Trudeau is treated like the second coming when he walks into packed halls – he could talk about his favourite teen movies for hours on end, and the adoring crowds would still lap it up.

Maybe there’s just a lack of options in the Great White North. If we really needed a celebrity to lead this nation in the 21st century, who would we turn to? Anne Murray? Justin Bieber? Bright-coloured hoodies for everyone!

How about Celine Dion? On second thought, no. Excuse me Mrs. Prime Minister, we realize that Love Can Move Mountains, but it still won’t help us balance this budget.

Good luck with that, Haiti.

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